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Dangerous military confrontation with Russia in Kaliningrad

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By Jonathan Power

September 23, 2019

“What idiocy”, exclaims Jack Matlock on Facebook. Matlock is one of my “Facebook Friends” because I judge his knowledge of Russia as second to none, having been under President Ronald Reagan the White House’s senior advisor on the Soviet Union and, later, his ambassador to Moscow.

The object of his ire is based on a Newsday article earlier this month. (The Russian, nation-wide, NTV channel carried the same story in a broadcast yesterday.)

It concerns Russia’s anger following the US military’s claim that it could take down the air defences of the Kaliningrad region. They are the highly sophisticated S-300 and S-400 anti-missile systems. Moreover, it has doing so earlier this year. (Kaliningrad is an internationally recognised enclave of Russia that is sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.)

Jeff Harrigan, the commander of US Air Forces in Europe, told reporters, “If we
have to go in there to take down the Kaliningrad Air Defense System let there
be no doubt we have a plan to go after that. We train to that. We think through
these plans all the time and if that would ever come to fruition we’d be ready
to execute.”

B-52 strategic bombers carried out a mock missile attack on Kaliningrad in

This is thinking without thinking about the unthinkable. Europe’s American air force boss says in effect: “We are back to the Cold War”.

Who has allowed him to say all this? There’s no report of a reprimand from on high so we must take it that this is US military policy.

Those who believe President Donald Trump is in President Vladimir Putin’s pocket should think once again.

He has been polite, even friendly, in personal encounters with Putin but his anti-Russian actions betray his words. I cannot think of one thing that the US has done to support Russia.

Yet Russia allows the US to transport by rail military hardware to US troops in Afghanistan. It sells rocket engines to the US which otherwise would experience a major setback in its space activities. It launches rockets carrying American payloads.  

should we go back to the Cold War and the attitudes and missteps it bred?
Russia has not done much bad, at least in comparison with America’s decision to
expand the boundaries of NATO right up to Russia’s border.

was present at the crucial meetings when James Baker, the US Secretary of
State, made it clear to Russia’s foreign minister Eduard Shevarnadze and
President Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not move its boundaries eastwards.

announcement by General Harrigan comes on top of the US’s decision to terminate
the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and the Intermediate Range (INF)
Treaty, banning short and medium range nuclear missiles.

think the Russians shouldn’t be angry? To them these American moves smack of
Napoleon and Hitler who also transgressed Russia’s borders.

says that a rational answer would be: “Play your games if you wish, but you are
wasting your time and your assets. You must know very well if you do that you
will not survive the consequences. Building up military assets and bragging
about it simply gives Russia an incentive to raise the ante”.

Saturday, a Russian corvette and frigate conducted missile training off the
coast of Kaliningrad. On Sunday, Iskander missile combat crews fended off a
simulated NATO attack on the region.

Matlock adds, hopefully rightly, “NATO is not going to attack Russia and Russia
is not going to attack any NATO country. But these games are dangerous because
accidents can happen and can lead to dangerous escalation.”

least, they signal that we are back into a Cold War, a Cold War without the
justification of confronting atheistic, aggressive, dictatorial, communism and
a forgetting of the Soviet Union’s role when it was working together with its
Western allies to defeat Nazi Germany, with the USSR carrying the larger part
of the burden.

Who are we supposed to be arming against – a country that after the Cold War wanted to be the West’s friend?

Yes, it does things that the West doesn’t like and goes against international law – it sent soldiers into eastern and southern Ukraine and seized Crimea and justified it with an unsatisfactory plebiscite.

has turned Russia from a democracy into an autocracy, but opposition movements
are raising their voices more and more. When their leaders are arrested or
treated badly by the police, seemingly with Putin’s support, there are many
media outlets which protest and a good number of the demonstrators are then
released from jail.

short, re-starting the Cold War as is being done in Kaliningrad is both
historically insensitive and counterproductive in today’s politics. The best
way to bring back democracy to Russia is not to provoke the Bear unnecessarily.

second Cold War is the last thing we should want.

Copyright: Jonathan Power.

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